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Pushing to extend yellow-light signal times

September 14, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
There is a push to lengthen the time yellow lights are lit around Los Angeles. One group says longer yellow lights would make intersections safer. The Los Angeles City Council heard arguments from both sides Wednesday.

There are some studies out there that say extending the time the light is yellow by even just one second, would make the intersection safer. But city transportation officials disagree, saying that extending the time at some of the city's most dangerous intersections could actually make matters worse.

When a traffic light goes from green to yellow, the amount of time that light stays yellow is determined by a state-mandated formula that takes into account several factors, including the speed limit leading up to the intersection.

The city's Department of Transportation says there is no proof that extending that time would make for a safer intersection.

"We looked at them and we would have no objective basis for increasing the yellow timer or red time any further based on what we know today," said John Fisher, Los Angeles Department of Transportation.

"I completely disagree with what the D.O.T. is saying," said Jay Beeber, Safer Streets L.A.

Safer Streets L.A. is an organization that led the fight against L.A.'s red-light camera program. Beeber wants the city to consider extending the yellow-light phase at the 32 intersections where the red-light cameras were in place.

"All we're advocating for is safer intersections, and unfortunately, they're resisting us on this," said Beeber.

Wednesday, the L.A. City Council's Transportation Committee considered the issue and listened to testimony from city officials who said the extending the yellow signal time could actually lead to more accidents.

"Ninety-nine percent of the motorists who go through that intersection are able to get through before it turns red. We feel that is a very high percentage. We feel that that is a demonstration that the timing we put there is effective and appropriate," said John Fisher.

While the Transportation Committee did not take any action on the item, at least one council member seemed reluctant to extend the yellow signal times.

"The people that defend us when we have to go to court about the signal-light intersections and the timing is D.O.T., not citizens from neighborhood watch, not people who have hobbies, not people that have made up their own personal study," said L.A. City Councilman Bernard Parks.

The Transportation Committee says it will continue to look into the issue and perhaps revisit it at a later date.

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